‘The Planchette Episode’

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If there really is an afterlife, I’ll bet the best way to contact it is through a plastic, mass-produced board game from Milton Bradley! –Mad Magazine

It was meant to be an innocent caper of leg pulling on a Botany field trip that we made to Mahableshwar when I was studying in S.Y.B.Sc. at college. It turned out to be a real education for me to understand that we live in a social milieu and it is a sign of intelligence to abide by its unsaid rules – meaningless rebellion for no particular cause can upset so many lives needlessly and divert our energies from the pursuit of more meaningful goals.

The field trip was a 3 day affair wherein we were meant to collect specimens of plants that were of Botanical interest from areas like Tapola and Lingmala Falls. A batch of 50 students would be accompanied by couple of Professors on the same. I belonged to a gang of 14 friends who used to hangout together and be closely involved in campus and off-campus activities. We were looking forward to this outing as it also provided a rare occasion for us to spend some time on our own, away from our cloistered family lives.In fact it was through some smart maneuvering on our part that we convinced our Professors to permit us to form our own Group for the trip – typically multiple batches would go on the trip and usually they would be chosen using their ‘roll-numbers’ rather than any personal preferences.

It was a crazy idea of my friend that many of the girls in our group seemed to believe in the idea that ‘Spirits’ could be contacted using the Ouija Board. So we could have some fun playing the ‘Planchette’ game with them. It started a bit innocuously but developed into a grand idea of a party. Our team had 9 girls and 5 guys and the real gullible targets were a set of 3 girls who genuinely seemed to believe in the Spiritual roulette. Typically the day was spent in the collection of the plant specimens and the teams even spend time together till dinner was over. Finally the idea of doing this at the midnight hour had its own appeal.

So we started the game and it was good fun while it lasted. One of the girls was in the thralls of speaking to the spirit of her Grandfather when we were busted by our Professors who had got to hear of our little game. And that happened because some of the other guys in the trip seemed to resent our gang & its plans, and so squealed on us.

When we returned from our trip and Diwali holidays, we were greeted with the HOD’s notice instructing us to meet him in his Chamber. By them the news had spread in the Campus as well. Guess it looked like foolish bravado when 5 boys were found to be in the girls’ room at 12 in the night.

It surely was a mistake and we realized it well enough on returning to our college routine and by noticing the reactions it elicited from everyone.We were all worried about it getting blown up further.

But our HOD really won our hearts that day. He said, ‘You all know why you have been called for this meeting. When we organized the trip you were instructed to maintain discipline and obey your Professors who were acting as your Guardians on the trip. Well you are all very good students and come from good families. I do not even question that your intentions were not honorable. Its good be a well-knit group and such good friends. We have seen you for over 1 and 1/2 years now and can understand your youthful enthusiasm.’

‘But you need to understand that Public behavior and decorum has its constraints and you should accept them in the right spirit. Your parents would expect that from you as well. I hope you understand our message as we do not want to trouble you any further on this. Please take our advice in the right spirit and consider it to be good lesson learnt at the right time.’ He gave us an impish smile and ushered us out of the room.

Well it was finally over in the best possible manner in the circumstances – and a true relief from the grim scenes that could have unfolded. We had not even lost our face – thanks to the suave diplomacy shown by a seasoned administrator. And yet I remember that the true gravity of the situation had finally sunk in – the girls had all seemed so very sober coming out of the meeting, guess none of them would have relished the prospect of having to drag her parents to sort out the mess.

The other reactions were interesting as well. The boys who had created the trouble for us in the first place, came up and apologized. They had not expected to things to go so out of hand. Rather sporting of them to acknowledge that the jealousy they felt had led to such a brouhaha. Quite a few of our mates cheered us for having braved it as a Group and not resorted to any kind of blame game within ourselves. To many we looked like heroes because the Profs had let us go scot-free in the end. But personally for me, the message was the rightful emphasis our HOD put on the need to maintain decorum in the public domain.

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